19 years after Marsinah’s murder, activists demand justice

Indoleft New Service – May 10, 2012
Protest action in Jakarta commemorating murder of Marsinah (3.bp)
Protest action in Jakarta commemorating murder of Marsinah (3.bp)

The following is a compilation of abridged translations from the Indonesian media on commemorations held around the country to mark 19 years since the death of labour activist Marsinah. Marsinah was a women activist who led a strike at the PT Catur Putra Surya watch factory in Surabaya, East Java. On May 8, 1993, three days after the strike, her body was found in a remote hut. The medical examination found that she had died as a result of injuries inflicted during torture. Although there was considerable circumstantial evidence that she had been kidnapped and killed by the military, in 1994 nine managerial personnel and security guards from the factory were tried and convicted of the murder. All of the defendants claimed that they had been tortured in order to extract confessions. On May 5, 1995, all nine were released.

An evening of contemplation

Scores of workers from the National Trade Union Confederation (KSN) commemorated Marsinah’s death with an evening of contemplation on the grounds of the Gedung Sate building in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung on Tuesday May 8.

In addition to giving speeches, the workers also lit candles and brought posters with messages such as “Marsinah! Indonesian Workers Hero”, which were posted on the gates of the West Java governors offices.

Action coordinator Cep Hermawan from the KSN said that the evening of contemplation was held to remember Marsinah’s death, which has become a symbol of working class struggle in Indonesia. – Kompas, May 9, 2012

Military-employer collaboration

The commemoration of Marsinah’s death is being propelled by women activists from a number of different groups including the Marsinah FM Community Radio Station, the Free Women National Committee (KNPM), the Cross Factory Labour Forum (FBLP), the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI), the Indonesian Center for Labour Struggle-Solidarity Alliance for Labour Struggle (GSPB-PPBI) and the Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (Pembebasan).

“Now, after 14 years of reformasi (the reform process that began in 1998) or 19 years since Marsinah’s death, there has yet to be any clarification or follow-up in resolving this case. Investigate and solve the Marsinah murder case”, said Vivi Widyawati, the public relations officer of an event titled “Commemorating 19 Years since the Death of Marsinah” at the office of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Jakarta on Monday May 7.

“Marsinah represents a portrait of a women worker who became a victim of collaboration between employers and the military. Collaboration between employers and the military is not unusual, because under the concept of the state that sides with capital, the military are always needed and used to protect the capitalist’s means of production”, asserted Vivi. – Gatra.com, May 7, 2012

Calls for new investigation

Demonstrators from the Indonesian People’s Opposition Front (For-Indonesia) commemorated Marsinah’s death with a protest action at the flyover bridge in the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar on Tuesday May 8.

For-Indonesia is an alliance of organisations including the Working People’s Association (PRP), the KSN, the Indonesian Federated Trade Union of Struggle (FSPBI), the Nusantara Trade Union Alliance (GSBN), the All Indonesia Trade Union (SBSI) and the Makassar Parking Workers Trade Union (SJPM).

In a speech, action coordinator Sulistiani called on all workers and the people to fight for Marsinah as a hero of the struggle by women workers in Indonesia. She also called on law enforcement officials to fully investigate the Marsinah murder case, which is alleged to involve members the security forces. “Make Marsinah’s fall, on May 8, a Labour Day as part of the Indonesian women’s struggle”, she said.

In a written statement the demonstrators also outlined the history of Marsinah’s “mysterious” death after leading a strike action at a watch factory in Porong, Sidoarjo, demanding wage increases, maternity and menstrual leave, overtime pay and the right to form a trade union. – Tribune News, May 8, 2012

Militarism still haunts workers

Hundreds of workers from the KSN held a protest action in front of the General Soedirman statue in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya demanding that the Marsinah case be solved.

“Fully investigate and solve the death of labour hero Marsinah. Because after 19 years the case has not been resolved” said one of the speakers at the action on Tuesday May 8.

During the action, the workers brought posters depicting Marsinah as a hero of Indonesian workers. To this day, a big question mark still surrounds the murder, including the involvement of the military. They also held a theatrical action depicting Marsinah’s mysterious death.

“Militarism still haunts workers. The military are the stooges of capitalism. We will continue to demand that the Marsinah case be solved and that she becomes a workers’ hero”, they added. – Detik News, May 8, 2012

An evening of theater and poetry

Around 300 workers from the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance-Nusantara Trade Union Federation (FSBN-KASBI) gathered in front of the Tangerang mayor’s office in Banten on the evening of May 8.

They were commemorating May Day and at the same time remembering the death of Marsinah, a labour activists in Sidoarjo, East Java, who was murdered 19 years ago when fighting for workers rights.

“Her death is a symbol of the labour struggle that will never stop until workers’ rights are fulfilled”, asserted FSBN-KASBI activist Sunarno when contacted by Kompas last night.

The commemoration, which was presented as an evening of solidarity to remember Marsinah as an Indonesia worker, involved several events including speeches, poetry readings, theater and music of struggle.

“Before commemorating the death of the late Marsinah, we also took to the streets to commemorate International Labour Day, including, among other places, in the industrial zones of Tangerang and the [State] Palace [in Central Jakarta”, added Sunarno. – Kompas, May 9, 2012

Tourists join solidarity action

Scores of activists from around 20 different labour organisations under the United People’s Committee (KRB) held a commemoration to mark 19 years since the murder of labour activist Marsinah in front of the Gedung Agung building in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on the evening of May 8.

Under the watch of local police, the activists formed a circle then lit hundreds of candles, in the middle of which were placed photographs of Marsinah. Each person wore a mask with a photocopy of Marsinah’s face with holes for the eyes. They then voiced their concerns and demanded that the government take the case seriously.

“The New Order [regime of former President Suharto] held a sham trial into the murder case, as a result the issue was never resolved”, said KRB public coordinator Akbar Rewako.

The action also attracted the attention of tourists and foreigners who showed their solidarity by sitting down and listening to the speeches and poems read out by the activists.

“We feel very disappointed that the present government says that the Marsinah case is not as one of the worst human rights violation that has occurred in this country”, said Akbar. After 14 years of reformasi, the failure to solve the Marsinah murder has become a stain on the legal reform process. – Tempo, May 8, 2012

[Translated by James Balowski.]